Race & Ethnicity

Scalia's Weird VRA Spat

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. At the heart of the law that ended decades of disenfranchisement in former Confederate states is Section 5, the "preclearance" provision. Section 5 requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get prior federal approval for any changes to state voting laws. The necessity of this provision was clear: without it, states had been able to nullify the commands of the 15th Amendment by passing measures that were formally race-neutral but were discriminatory in practice. Regrettably, the Supreme Court appears poised to eliminate one of the proudest achievements of American democracy. As Esquire 's Charles Pierce puts it , striking down Section 5 would constitute "the final victory of the long march against the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement that began almost before the ink dried on the bill in 1965." The most remarkable example of the contemporary Republican hostility to civil rights came ,...

Today in Magical Beliefs about Racism

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum President Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. I mentioned in my previous post that the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act this week. At issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires states and localities with histories of voter disenfranchisement to pre-approve any changes that effect voting with the federal government. The provision effects nine states—mostly in the South—and most areas that submit for pre-clearance are approved. It takes serious problems for the Justice Department to put changes on hold. Despite the wide flexibility of Section 5—and the extent to which some areas are more likely to violate voting rights than others—conservatives have attacked this provision as "onerous," "unfair," and tantamount to reverse discrimination. Conservative members of the Court also followed this line of thinking . Justice Antonin Scalia described...

The Titanic Wealth Gap Between Blacks and Whites

Brandeis University
The gap between black and white wealth is nothing new. Researchers have studied it for decades, people have lived it for longer, and comedians—from Chris Rock to Dave Chappelle—have used it to craft biting humor. What's novel is the extent to which its has exploded over the last 25 years. According to a recent study from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, in which researchers followed 1,700 working-age households from 1984 to 2009, "the total wealth gap between white and African-American families" has nearly tripled, "increasing from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009." And more than 25 percent of the gap is attributable to homeownership and other policies associated with housing. Indeed, the disproportionate influence of housing on black wealth is reflected in this staggering statistic: "Overall, half the collective wealth of African-American families was stripped away during the Great Recession." It's fitting Brandeis released this report during a...

It’s Time for Some Israel Real Talk.

I’ll start.

flickr/jason_harman
Last week, the storied New York LGBT Center refused award-winning queer writer and activist Sarah Schulman a chance to read from her new book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International . In doing so, the organization cited the Center’s “moratorium” on using the center to "organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” in place since early 2011 purportedly to maintain the Center as a "safe space" for both Jews and Arabs. On Monday, they relaxed the moratorium, though it remains unclear whether Schulman will be allowed to read. Quasi-reversals notwithstanding, the existence of the moratorium in the first place is the height of hypocrisy—one would think that a queer organization of all places would understand, as the ACT UP slogan goes, that silence equals death. Is there any hotter third rail in U.S. politics than an unflattering opinion of Israel’s policy on Palestine? Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is still being haunted by one he let slip years ago, and last fall’s...

The New Liberals

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnny Crawford, Pool
When he leaves office in January of 2017—provided there isn't a terrible scandal or some kind of economic or foreign policy disaster between now and then—Barack Obama will likely be hailed as the greatest Democratic hero since John F. Kennedy. He got most of the way there just by winning a second term, before we even get to his already substantial policy successes. But the real reason is that for a long time to come, Obama will represent for Democrats the moment when they and their beliefs were ascendant. You can see it in the way some Democrats are already positioning themselves to run for president in 2016. We'll get to those particular candidates in a moment, but what's important to know about them is that this new Democratic coalition you've heard so much about is going to produce its own kind of candidate. That isn't to say they'll necessarily be people you had never heard of until a couple of years ago; some will be politicians who came of age in an earlier era adapting to the...

African Americans and Immigration, Continued

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
A few weeks ago , I noted the extent to which President Obama’s push for immigration reform created real tension with some African Americans, who see Latino immigrants as direct competitors for jobs and other resources. Writing for McClatchy, William Douglas and Franco Ordonez examine this tension , highlighting Al Sharpton (who supports immigration reform) and a radio host whose listenership oppose new immigration: Ingram says many of his listeners see Obama’s attempt to push forward on immigration as a reminder of what the president hasn’t done to improve economic conditions for African-Americans. “I would say a bulk of my listenership is anti-immigration,” he said. “You have to understand that in the community in which I live the percentage of African-Americans who are unemployed. They look at what’s going on with immigration as an affront to African-Americans who can’t pay their mortgages because many of the immigrants come here, they are hired at less than minimum wage.” The...

Why Asian Americans Are So Democratic—In Three Charts

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Apropos of this morning’s post on the Democratic Party’s overwhelming strength with Asian Americans, it’s worth looking at why Asians are so supportive of Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular. One answer is the anti-immigrant politics of the Republican Party. It’s not that Asians are liberal as much as it is that—as a largely foreign-born community—they’re turned off by the GOP’s overt hostility toward immigration. But a poll taken before the election complicates that picture. In the survey , conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, only 7 percent of respondents saw Mitt Romney as hostile toward Asian Americans. Romney used anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it didn’t create an impression of hostility toward the Asian American community writ large. And even if it did, rhetoric alone isn’t enough to explain Obama’s wide advantage with Asian Americans For that, you have to look to ideology. In its 2012 survey on the beliefs and views of Asian Americans, the Pew...

America's Long Experiment in Racial Quotas

Wikipedia
Wikipedia A 1937 redlined map of Philadelphia by the city's Home Owners' Loan Corporation. Racial inequality in housing, health, and education is still a fact of American life, but many of the programs and policies meant to combat it are on the chopping block. This year, for instance, the Supreme Court will rule on a challenge to the University of Texas’ affirmative action program—from a white student denied admission —and in doing so, is expected to end race-based preferences in college admissions. Likewise, conservative Republicans have mounted an effort to gut the Voting Rights Act . Their position? That it’s unfair to place greater federal scrutiny on states with a history of racial discrimination. This, despite the fact that—over the last two years—those same states have passed a host of laws that make voting more difficult for African Americans and other minorities. At the other end of the hemisphere, however, politicians and activists are working to combat racial inequality,...

The GOP's Big Asian-American Problem

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Still overlooked in the immigration discussion are Asian Americans, who are the fastest growing demographic group in the country—and one of the most diverse. The bulk of Asian American immigrants (83 percent) come from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. At present, they’re 5.8 percent of the total population, nearly half of whom live in the West, with a large concentration on the Pacific coast. Seventy-four percent of Asian American adults were born outside of the United States, and in 2009—according to the Pew Research Center—Asian American immigration outpaced Hispanic immigration for the first time in recent history: The Republican Party’s standing with Latinos is solid compared to where it is with Asian Americans. A whopping 73 percent of Asians supported Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, up 11 percent from four years ago. When you disaggregate by nationality, the difference between Asian support for Obama and Romney is even more stark and...

Marco Rubio Can't Save the GOP

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr T he rapid rise of Florida Senator Marco Rubio makes one thing clear about the Republican Party: They’ve convinced themselves that outreach (or the lack thereof) is their issue with Latinos. Solve the communications problem—with gentler language and high-status Hispanic politicians—and you’ll solve the electoral problem. It’s why Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has committed himself to making the network more friendly to Latino voters—an abrupt shift for a place that refers to immigrants as “illegal aliens”—and why Rubio will give his State of the Union response in English and Spanish . None of this is bad. The GOP’s new push to win Latino voters includes growing support for comprehensive immigration reform, which will be a huge humanitarian boon to millions of undocumented immigrants if it’s passed. But Republicans are fooling themselves if they think this will fix their problem with Latino voters or if they think immigration is the beginning and end of the issue. The...

New Voters, New Values

AP Photo/Jerome Delay
AP Photo/Jerome Delay President Barack Obama holds hands with Vice President Joe Biden following their victory after the 2012 election. B arack Obama would have lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections had a new set of voters not joined the American electorate—voters who brought with them a range of values that differed sharply from those of more traditional voters. These changing values—on such issues as personal social responsibility, the role of government, sexual mores, gender roles, and America’s place in the world—underpin the decisions these voters made on Election Day and provide a basis for understanding Obama’s victory. They also signify profound changes to American politics and pose elemental challenges to both the Republican and Democratic parties in coming years. As the values of the new American electorate (Latinos, women, the young, the unmarried) clash with those of the old (particularly white married men over 35), the country could see a shift not only in voting...

The Rising Tide of Anti-Black Racism

Google
Google This image was distributed by a Republican organization in San Bernardino, California during the 2008 Presidential election. Thomas Edsall has a fascinating column in today’s New York Times on the persistence of racial resentment in the Obama-era. For those not familiar with the term, “racial resentment” is defined as the convergence of anti-black sentiments with traditional American views on hard work and individualism. It’s measured using questions that focus on race and effort. People who answer in the affirmative to questions like this—“Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors”—and in the negative to questions like this—“Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class”—are assigned a high place on the resentment scale. Edsall runs though recent research from a variety of sources...

"Acting White" Isn't a Thing

Google
Every community has its problems. It’s only among African Americans, however, that those problems are pathologized and turned into a symptom of “culture.” Crime against neighbors becomes “black-on-black” crime, the predictable patterns of poor communities becomes a “culture of dependency,” and the usual teasing of grade school—where nerdy kids become targets of ridicule—is used as evidence of an anti-education pathology among African Americans. With education, the idea is straightforward: Black students reject educational achievement lest they’re accused of “acting white.” Then-Senate candidate Barack Obama referenced it in his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech—“Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white”—and it received renewed currency by way of a 2011 book by Stuart Buck, a lawyer and educational fellow at the University of Arkansas. There are so...

Making Voting Constitutional

Our governing document creates no right to vote. It’s time it did.

(AP Photo)
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite In Fairfax County, Virginia, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Fairfax County is a Washington suburb with more than 1 million residents and is the biggest battleground in Virginia, which is a key swing state in Tuesday’s presidential election. E arly last year, when Attorney General Eric Holder took a strong stand against voter-identification laws, he emphasized how much they violate core American ideals. “What we are talking here is a constitutional right,” he said. “This is not a privilege. The right to vote is something that is fundamental to who we are as Americans. We have people who have given their lives—people have sacrificed a great deal in order for people to have the right to vote. It’s what distinguishes the United States from most other countries.” The problem is Eric Holder is wrong. Unlike citizens in every other advanced democracy—and many...

Why "Make Them Learn English" Is the Key to Immigration Reform

New Americans taking the oath of citizenship. (Flickr/Grand Canyon NPS)
Among the provisions in the immigration-reform proposal released by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday was a requirement that in order to get on that path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to "learn English and civics." They don't detail exactly how it would happen, but presumably there'd be a test of English proficiency immigrants would have to pass, and perhaps some money appropriated for English classes. There are two things to know about this idea. First, in practical terms it's completely unnecessary. And second, in political terms it's an excellent idea. In fact, it could be the key to passing immigration reform. The reason it's unnecessary is that every wave of immigrants follows basically the same pattern when it comes to English. People who immigrate as adults tend not to learn much beyond the most basic words and phrases, and continue to speak their native language at home. Their children grow up bilingual, speaking one language at home and another at...

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